Yesterday morning the motherboard on my home computer failed. Today I have been pondering my options: buy a completely new system, try to replace the motherboard with another socket 478 design or upgrade the major components. I’ll likely elect the last option as I am very fussy about these things, but pricing out processors, memory, motherboards and power supplies has helped me realize how a good a deal you can get from Dell Computers when you get a little help from sites like dealnews, slickdeals and techbargains.
Two weeks ago we needed to order a pair of cheap but flexible computers for testing at work, and I decided on Dell Dimension 5150s. The 5150 is a moderately powered machine running a dual-core Pentium D. We didn’t need expensive extras, but we did opt for 1GB of RAM in each. Amazingly, together with crisp 19” LCD displays, the total cost was $590 each including tax and shipping thanks to a handy coupon.
That is a great value. If you were to assemble your own, and you purchased every component for the lowest possible internet price, you would still pay much more. At Newegg, my favorite computer e-tailer, the processor is $90, a motherboard with similar Intel chipset is $70, and memory is $100. Add in $30 for the dvd drive, $50 for the hard drive, $100 for a case and power supply of comparable quality, and $90 for an OEM version of Windows XP. With $225 for a basic 19” monitor, the total plus tax comes to $817, a significant increase in cost.
With the parts from Newegg, you would have to assemble them yourself and install the OS from scratch. With Dell, they handle the hard work. Cables are routed cleanly, the OS comes with the latest service pack and there isn’t too much bad software to uninstall.
I like quiet machines, and I was impressed with the build quality and case design of the 510. The hard drive Dell selected has a good acoustic signature and the thick steel case features great airflow. The 5150 has only 1 fan, a large, slow turning 12cm fan that pulls air in the front and, using a shroud, pushes it over the fins of a heat pipe design CPU cooler. The result is a low noise design that could become quieter still with a cardboard duct to insure that the power supply has lots of fresh air.
If you need a new machine, the deal is back on the Dimension 5150 (courtesy of dealnews). And, there is an even better bargain on the Dimension 9200. The 9200 has a faster processor (the Intel Core Duo 2 E6300, $100 more at newegg) improved graphics ($50 for the card) and a slightly better LCD display for $679. Shipping is free but tax brings the total to $735.